Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today the publication and start of a 90-day comment period for the proposed Colorado Roadless Rule, developed collaboratively to address the needs of Colorado’s unique and precious roadless areas.
This proposed rule, in development since 2005, is the product of extensive public involvement that included more than 200,000 written comments and reflects local and national and concerns.
The proposed Colorado Roadless Rule identifies the highest quality roadless areas and provides even greater protection of their roadless values than 2001 Roadless Rule. As proposed, the rule supports President Obama’s commitment to the protection of roadless areas on our national forests. Roadless areas are vital for conservation of water resources, for wildlife and for outdoor recreation, and provide an important driver of economic opportunity and jobs in rural communities.
The proposed rule seeks a balanced approach for managing and protecting Colorado Roadless Areas and addresses the specific needs of the American public, now and in the future. The proposal provides more protections than previously in place. The proposed Colorado Roadess Rule:
- Puts more than a half million acres into a higher category of protection with more limited exceptions for road construction and tree removal than the 2001 Roadless Rule.
- Provides an updated inventory to protect areas with true roadless characteristics by removing substantially altered acres from the inventory and adding new acres containing a high level of roadless characteristics;
- Removes existing ski areas from the roadless inventory;
- Provides special protection for the headwaters of cutthroat trout streams; and
- Limits temporary road construction for underground coal activities, such as methane drainage wells, to 20,000 acres in the North Fork coal mining area;
- Limits temporary road construction for fuels treatments and ecosystem restoration to within one-half mile of communities.
The proposed Colorado Roadless Rule and Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) are available for review and comment online for 90 days. Secretary Vilsack and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell will consider public input prior to making the decision on the final Colorado Roadless Rule and EIS, which is expected to be signed in late 2011.